Where every failure is punished with more money and power

The United States has the largest number of people in jail. And not per capita but in absolute terms. Yes, despite a population of around 1/4 of China (325 m vs 1.4 billion), there are more people in US jails than in Chinese jails. And of the perhaps 2.5 million in US jails, see the lovely diagram following, perhaps 1/7th are incarcerated in California.

Why are these numbers so and what happened around 1980 that kicked up a previously continuous 60 year trend? Well, consideration might be given to increased focus on crime or perhaps the notion of privatised prisons. But greater weight should be given to the role of prison guard unions.

In 2016-17 in California, it cost around US$71K per annum to house to incarcerate an inmate:

Since 2010-11, the average annual cost has increased by about $22,000 or about 45 percent. This includes an increase of $7,900 for security and $7,200 for inmate health care. This increase has been driven by various factors, including (1) employee compensation, (2) increased inmate health care costs, and (3) operational costs related to additional prison capacity to reduce prison overcrowding.

And not only did the numbers of inmates increase and the quality of prisons decrease but:

The growth of California’s incarceration system, and the decline of its quality, tracks the accession to power of the state’s prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (“CCPOA”). The CCPOA has played a significant role in advocating pro-incarceration policies and opposing pro-rehabilitative policies in California. In 1980, CCPOA’s 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month. After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA’s 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80. These dues raise approximately $23 million each year, of which the CCPOA allocates approximately $8 million to lobbying.

The US 3 strikes laws; where did they come from, where did they start and who where biggest advocates? Would you be surprised to learn that is was the Californian prison union.

The formula is simple: more prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence.

And you may ask, why is Spartacus writing on this site about US prisons? To provide another example of public servants and their unions perverting public policy to benefit public servants and their unions.

Which brings Spartacus to the horrible, horrible incidents recently reported from the Northern Territory. It is saddening and sickening to hear about it. But from a public policy and public resource allocation perspective, it appears a similar phenomena occurring to that described above.

Now this post is not what Spartacus really wanted to write, but as Spartacus discussed earlier, this is the compromise that had to be made to manage the risk of Section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act.  So …

Spartacus was recently listening to an interview on SkyNews on the subject. Unlike the ABC, SkyNews tries at least to present views from both political sides. On this panel, the person “of the left” kept advocating for more tax dollars and more resources and more regulation and more legislation to prevent such incidents happenings. More, more, more. That’s correct. Rewarding failure with more powers and resources.

thus far. has anyone lost a job?  Has there been a single system wide inquiry announced or conducted?  Has there been a single change to the management and oversight of such issues?  NO!  Has anything changed on the ground since before or after the 2007 Intervention set up by the Howard Government to:

to address allegations of rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

You know the intervention in response to the Little Children are Sacred report.  The report issued in June 2005; 13 fricken years ago!

But you may also ask, are there not there already lots of powers and resources allocated to improve the welfare of Indigenous Expenditures? Well. The Productivity Commission prepares a report every couple of years on Indigenous Expenditures. This report looks at government spending across the 3 levels of government in Australia (Federal, State and Territory and Local). The most recent report was the Indigenous Expenditure Report 2017. According to this report:

  • In 2015-16, total direct government expenditure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was estimated to be $33.4 billion, a real increase from $27.0 billion in 2008-09.
  • In 2015-16, the estimated direct expenditure per person was $44 886 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, around twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians ($22 356)

Yes. You read that correctly.  $33.4 billion per annum and growing.  But what is needed is more resources.

A valid question to ask is whether the lot of indigenous Australians has improved or is on an upward trajectory? Then have a look at the Closing the Gap report and draw your own conclusions. Oh and have a look at the news from the Northern Territory also.

Another valid question to ask is whether tax payers are getting value for money? Are the outcomes, as they may be, being delivered in the best way?  Well have a look again at the Closing the Gap report and draw your own conclusions

What is likely the case here is that there are too many vested interests making very good returns from keeping things as they are and in perpetuating the current model. Don’t worry about indigenous Australians or their children; the well meaning bureaucrats and others living off the current $30 billion plus tax payer dollars spent have mortgages to pay and families to feed. After all, according to the Corporate Plan of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet:

In 2017-18, we will work with Indigenous leaders, communities, other Commonwealth government departments, and state and territory governments to refresh the Closing the Gap targets.

Yes. Let’s refresh the Closing the Gap targets. Being accountable for meeting the targets, that’s clearly for others.  There is no accountability just accounting; $33 billion and counting.

Spartacus does not know what the answer is, but it seems doubtful that more of the same with an increased price tag is not it.

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25 Responses to Where every failure is punished with more money and power

  1. wal1957

    Another valid question to ask is whether tax payers are getting value for money? Are the outcomes, as they may be, being delivered in the best way?

    That same question should be asked of anything that governments throw money at.
    Unfortunately I think that most politicians argue for more money to be thrown at things just so they can get a good sound-bite on the news. Then the problem is no longer their problem. They have done their bit.

    You may have gathered that I have a very low opinion of politicians. You would be correct. The truth is that the older I get, the less forgiving I become. The last 10 years have been disastrous for Australia, and
    I can’t see any chance that the ferals in parliament are going to change their ways in the near future.

  2. H B Bear

    Gotta love the Aboriginal Industry. Unless you are an aborigine of course.

  3. BorisG

    Unfortunately I think that most politicians argue for more money to be thrown at things

    Not just politicians. You hear it from all sorts of activists, and not only from those with direct vested interests.

  4. BorisG

    Maybe Americans can learn about law enforcement from the Chinese?

  5. .

    Yes. You read that correctly. $33.4 billion per annum and growing. But what is needed is more resources.

    Sweet freakin’ cheeeses.

    Where do I sign up?

    That is around 1.8% of GDP!

  6. classical_hero

    The three strikes law came into being because the judges were very lenient to serious crimes in the 70’s. The people were fed up and demanded change and this is what they got.

  7. .

    These three/four strikes laws are pretty dumb.


    Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263 (1980), (sometimes erroneously cited as Rummel v. Estell) was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld a life sentence with the possibility of parole under Texas’ three strikes law for a felony fraud crime, where the offense and the defendant’s two prior offenses involved approximately $230 of fraudulent activity.

  8. BorisG

    Me thinks prison population is increasing so dramatically because serious crime is out of hand. A big part of this is stupid drug laws.

  9. Craig

    The abo industry…….my old company made me do an aboriginal cultural, sensitivity course and one on the components was about the stolen generation. The reading went on and on and how white man were bad persons for removing their children and other crap the course tutors could make up. I did some outside reading and came across Keith Windshuttle, who demonstrated such claims were false and more indicative of the indigenous lobby group wanting to keep the status quo by making shit up.

    So, I remarked about the contrasting evidence seen in the curriculum vs external research and the tutor basically ignored my question. To this day, 2 years after finishing the course, I’m still awaiting my certificate of attainment……anybody think I’ll get it after questioning the aboriginal nazi police about their history?

  10. rickw

    Why are these numbers so and what happened around 1980 that kicked up a previously continuous 60 year trend?

    Isn’t it around this time that there started to be a flood of people from the south?

  11. Oh come on

    I’m not an expert in matters pertaining to incarceration for criminal offences. What I do know is that, when the ‘three strikes’ laws began to bite in various states in the 1990s and career criminals (or just really stupid people who were willing to commit crime because they were stupid) and these people were off the streets, crime fell.

    I’m not necessarily saying ‘lock em all up’ is the answer. What I am saying is that we need to tread carefully here, in Australia and not just the US. When the mentally ill were deinstitutionalised in the 1960s and 1970s, and the asylums shut down, the alternative to incarceration due to mental incapacity – that these people could be managed and medicated whilst living the community – seemed like a great idea.

    Problem was/is that types like paranoid schizophrenics don’t think there’s anything wrong with them and people turning up in white coats to medicate them for their diagnosis just a part of the vast social conspiracy against them. So they aren’t medicated, and their symptoms are manifested upon the rest of society. These people invariably end up homeless and both the victims and perpetrators of goodness knows how many crimes.

    There is an important debate predicated on utilitarian grounds with regard to the value of a disproportionately large prison population. We got it waaaay wrong with the mentally ill. Careful decisions need to be made and lessons learnt must be heeded.

  12. Mother Lode

    We had a regular office do a couple of weeks ago where they pick a cause, sell raffle tickets, and we get a few drinks and munchies. Nothing elaborate.

    Typically it is about the homeless, drug rehab centres, disadvantaged kids, womens medical research, and whatnot. Nothing remarkable.

    The last one was about Da Aborigines. It started off with the expected acknowledgment of the traditional custodians (I would contest both the ‘traditional’ and the ‘custodian’ – traditional since they would not know who was living where even 10 years before whitey arrived, and is it really custodianship to have learned not to shit in your own drinking hole? They were no more custodians than anything else which had carved out a niche for itself…including flora and fauna (tee hee)).

    Then we had to listen to the guff about how Aboriginal kids are less likely to finish high school etc. It was not said, but what was the point of mentioning this if it was not about more money, regulation, government programs, quotas or obligations on everyone else. If it was about what they Aborigines should be doing differently why tell us the tales of woe?

    Problem with victims is that see everything they endure as someone else’s fault, and it is incumbent upon others to solve it for them.

    What kind of resilience is that going to teach? How is a solution thoroughly mismatched to the problem going to actually solve anything?

    And so the grave train for the lucky few, who want it to continue, continues.

  13. Mother Lode

    Isn’t it around this time that there started to be a flood of people from the south?

    That would suggest most of the increase is comprised of Hispanics. Or penguins.

    Is that borne out in a breakdown of the prison populations?

    Has the nature of crimes changed as well. I expect there are a shed load more drugs convictions, and the ensuing violent crimes accruing from the gang warfare.

    The black family has been poisoned by decades of political opportunism and is surely on its last legs – meaning attitudes and norms that would have been inculcated in a family unit are gone with the result kids are guided more by their lizard brain.

    Oh, criminiality seems to have taken off among women too, who seem to be able to match and even surpass the savagery of men.

  14. Death Giraffe

    a previously continuous 60 year trend

    Not really.
    Prohibition seemed to kick off an increase in criminal activity only really ended by WW2.
    The current increased incarceration rate coincides with the begining of the cocaine wars.

  15. .

    It ended when prohibition ended.

    Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1975), part 1, p. 414.

  16. .

    You’re right Oh Come On.

    1. Take the Rummel v Estelle case for example. Two small fraud convictions (credit card, bounced cheque) and then non-performance of contract treated as criminal fraud. The total involved was less than 2000 AUD in today’s money. The “offences” were spread over nine years. He was then sentenced to life with possible parole. Turns out they were willing to use these extraordinary powers to get a plea deal out of him.

    2. In NSW, we already have no right to silence, majority jury verdicts and no double/triple/quadruple jeopardy rule.

    3. Releasing mentally ill people in the 1970s was misguided. There are too many crazy people just walking around these days. This is not enriching in their lives. If they commit a “crime”, the burden of their care is shifted from the mental health system to the criminal justice system. This is a terrifying prospect for those with no control over the faculties or those who are non-violent and never want to go back to prison.

  17. Zatara

    Sentenced prisoners under jurisdiction of US state or federal corrections authorities 31 Dec 2016.
    Total – 1,458,173
    Male – 1,352,684
    Female – 105,489
    White – 439,800
    Black – 486,900
    Hispanic – 339,000

    US populace racial composition 2016 vs. percent of prison population.
    Whites – make up 62% of civil population and 30.1% of inmates.
    Blacks – make up 12.6% of civil population and 33.4% of inmates.
    Hispanics – make up 17.3% of civil population and 23.2% of inmates.

    It just isn’t believable that those disparities are entirely the fault of redneck cops and out of control racist courts as the left so vociferously claims.

    Someone is punching above their weight.

  18. .

    Sure, lock them up for life for particular or repeat serious violent crimes.

    Giving someone a life sentence because he did not fix an air conditioner is just bizarre.

  19. Senile Old Guy

    These three/four strikes laws are pretty dumb.

    Read Journey into Darkness and reconsider.

    Numerous vicious crimes committed by serial offenders.

  20. .

    Will you reconsider life sentences for (low-level) non-violent drug offenders and blokes that did a dodgy repair job on an air conditioner?

  21. Senile Old Guy

    Will you reconsider life sentences for (low-level) non-violent drug offenders and blokes that did a dodgy repair job on an air conditioner?

    Yes but not for serial violent offenders.

  22. John Comnenus

    Why does this aspect of policy consume so many resources to achieve such poor outcomes? Simple, it is the blend of imposed collectivism or asset ownership amongst the people (communism via land councils) supported by victim politics by everyone, entrenched and vested interests in the allocation of resources creating more and more clientele through the allocation of those resources. A perfect blend of communism, cronyism and statism. What could go wrong?

    By the way this disaster is about to get supercharged because Defence and other major government agencies and large corporates are insisting that contractors must funnel 3% of their subcontract spending through majority indigenous owned entities. This will ensure that indigenous ‘entrepreneurs’ who are good at using the system get more and more share of the resources and average indigenous people get about the same.

    We are about to see the rise of the mega wealthy aboriginal class and no change to the number of dirt poor aboriginals with few in the middle.

    None of the normal ‘equity’ warriors will complain about this growth in inequity.

  23. Combine Dave

    The only thing worse than overcrowded prisons is limp wristed Judges giving out light sentences and early release to serious and repeat criminals.

    You can’t claim to be looking out for the women and children of Australia if you keep letting human garbage and predators out to reoffend.

    Look, only 4 years for attempted murder.

    Australia has seriously lost its way.

  24. "The Law is an Ass."

    How many of the future prison population for sexual assault will be traced back to a Special school who followed the education curriculum and taught the Safe Schools programs to intelectually disabled but physically and hormonally normal children..

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